PSA About Phantom Translations for the Phantom Book Club
This Phantom Book Club is a really super awesome idea, in large part because it will give people a chance to understand a bit more about the process of translating a book from one language to another.
I’ve seen that several people interested in the book club have been unsure who translated their copy of The Phantom of the Opera. Here is an easy way to determine which English language translation you own.
If your English translation of Phantom does *not* list a translator anywhere in the book, it is by default the 1911 English translation by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos. This is the (infamous) translation that cut over 80 pages worth of text from the original French novel. The de Mattos translation is in the public domain, which means that publishers can print copies of his text without paying royalties to his estate, so this is why there are so many different editions of his translation.
If your English translation *does* list a translator, it will be one of the following:
- David Coward (the best translation currently available, IMO – it still contains some mistranslations, but fewer than the other editions)
- Mireille Ribière (decent annotations, but cuts a fair amount of text, has a number of grammatical errors, and introduces a few big mistranslations)
- Lowell Bair (this translation uses a non-standard, abridged version of the original French – it is not unabridged as it claims)
- Leonard Wolf (I’d recommend avoiding this translation; it contains many mistranslations, due in large part to Wolf’s strange tendency to translate idioms literally)